Wednesday Words


I think about the role of “anxiety” in our lives as stutterers. It has a powerful way to describe our feelings or attitudes towards my stuttering. Most people tell you that they experience “anxiety” during the stuttering experience. What does anxiety actually look like, and does stuttering factor into the equation, if it actually does factor in? What is anxiety?

Anxiety thoughts are often clumped with depressive thoughts. Depressive thoughts are often characterized by feeling a gray cloud circling above you, or an invisible cloak that holds you down from moving. It’s the “I can’t get out of bed” or the “Everything’s bad” feelings.

Anxiety thoughts are like a danger or threat response system. They create physical feelings that prepare us for respond to the danger or threat we expect. It’s the feeling of always being on “high alert” or “I can’t breathe.”

The response is evident in the physical symptoms of anxiety to prepare us to “perception of threat varies from person to person based on previous data and how threat shaped formation of core beliefs.” “Mind over Mood”, Padesky & Greenberg 1995s

Examples of Anxiety Thoughts

  • Underestimation of your ability to cope
  • Underestimation of help available
  • Worries and catastrophic thoughts
  • Underestimation of resources
  • Inability to cope

Examples of Anxiety Behaviors

  • Avoiding situations where anxiety might occur
  • Leaving situations when anxiety begins to occur
  • Trying to do things perfectly or trying to control events to prevent danger
  • Moods: Nervous, Irritable, Anxious, Panicky

I like to think of anxiety like a blinking light saying something’s happening, check it out. Just like there is no right or wrong way to stutter, or to listen to a stutterer, there are multiple ways to view and deal with anxiety e.g., Anxiety Management.  Anxiety Management allows people to work on emotion regulation, increasing self-esteem, and increasing the ability to tolerate distress. Here are few examples of Anxiety Reductions Options:

  • Resourcing: naming and using positive things in your life to connect to calming sensations inside and bring yourself back to your Resilient Zone.
  • Grounding: strategies to detach from emotional pain, (i.e. racing and thoughts, negative talk . . .) by focusing outward on the external world, rather than inward toward the self.

For examples of Resourcing and Grounding, check out other posting dates for descriptions.

Elizabeth Kapstein

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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Wednesday Words — 7 Comments

  1. Elizabeth,

    Thank you for this insightful post. As a first year student in the graduate program for speech language pathology, I have thought about anxiety and stuttering and whether they co-exist. I really like the two examples you give about Anxiety Reduction Options. As a person who stutters, do you think it would be beneficial for a SLP to use those techniques when working with an individual who stutters?

    • Annie,

      Hi there. Thank you for your thoughtful question. Anxiety is such a gripping experience. I tend to think that the stuttering itself does not always bring the anxiety, but the anticipation of stuttering, and/or the negative reaction from “our audiences” is the culprit that brings the anxiety.

      So yes, anxiety reduction techniques are always useful and great complement to any practice. If you have any other questions please feel free to contact me at



  2. Thank you for sharing this post. I am currently a Speech and Language graduate student and love the wide array of paths this field has to offer. I am currently taking my first Fluency course and am intrigued by all of the information being presented and curious to learn more. I really liked that you said, “Just like there is no right or wrong way to stutter, or to listen to a stutterer…”. This class and this conference are my first experiences with the world of stuttering and I felt encouraged by your words that there is no wrong way to listen to a stutterer. Thank you for that. I also liked this post because even though I may be new to the stuttering world, I am not new to the world of anxiety. I can personally relate to anxious thoughts and behaviors all too well. Reading this allowed me to relate, in a way, to the life or to have a small glimpse into the life of a person who stutters, since anxiety I can fully understand. Thank you and blessings!

    • Katie,

      You are so right! Almost all of us can relate to the “Anxiety Experience.” it’s such a bridge to understanding each others experience.



  3. Elizabeth,
    I think this is such an important topic. Being someone who suffers from anxiety, I know the importance of understanding what anxiety it is and how it can be controlled. Although I do not stutter, I know how hard it is for someone to feel in control of their life when anxiety and anxiety thoughts take over. For a person who stutters I can only imagine that those anxieties are intensified since people are constantly listening and sometimes judging. I think this is a great post to spread awareness and help those who do stutter look for a way to control and cope with their anxieties. Thank you!

  4. Thank you for sharing this information about Anxiety. As a first year graduate student, I have seen many friends and colleagues deal with anxiety in numberous ways. What are some ways we as SLPs, and as someone who doesn’t have anxiety, we can help these individuals overcome the anxiety?

  5. Hi there. Thank you for your question. Ya know, I really believe in the use of anxiety reduction techniques for almost anything. Really, think of it. Whether it’s anticipatory or reactive anxiety they all take us to the same place.

    Anxiety is filled with catastrophic and all-or-nothing thinking that run rampant. These thoughts pull us away and out-of-our bodies. So anxiety reduction techniques are just a great way to get our feet back on the ground and feel like the sky isn’t falling in on us. It also can bring back the controls to each of us to better manage and deflect all all those secondary negative thoughts too.

    Most therapy workbooks that deal with self-esteem, anxiety, and/or negative thinking use the same techniques. Check out “Ten Days to Self Esteem” by David Burns. Feel free to write me at for more information.